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Most Archaeologists believe the first Polynesians settled in what is now American Samoa around 600 B.C. By that time, Polynesians had established themselves on the eastern tip of Tutuila island in the village of Tula. These first inhabitants probably arrived in Tonga and the Samoas from the west, perhaps by way of Indonesia, Vanuatu and Fiji.

Samoa's long isolation from the western world ended in 1722 when the Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, came upon the islands. It wasn't until 1831 however that European influence had any real impact. In that year, John Williams of the London Missionary Society arrived with eight Tahitian missionaries. Samoans took to Christianity with enthusiasm and remain a deeply religious people to this day.

By the Treaty of Berlin, signed December 2, 1899, and ratified February 16, 1900, the U.S. was internationally acknowledged to have rights extending over all the islands of the Samoa group east of Longitude 1,715 west of Greenwich. The Samoa group west of Longitude 1,715 west of Greenwich was ceded to Germany (and named German Samoa until 1917 when it was renamed Western Samoa). On April 17, 1900, the chiefs of Tutuila and Aunu'u ceded those islands to the U.S. In 1904, the King and chiefs of Manu'a ceded the islands of Ofu, Olosega, and Tau (composing the Manu'a group) to the United States. Swains Island, some 214 miles north of Samoa, was included as part of the territory by Act of Congress on March 4, 1925; and on February 20, 1929, Congress formally accepted sovereignty over the entire group and placed the responsibility for administration in the hands of the President. From 1900 to 1951, by Presidential direction, the Department of the Navy governed the territory. On July 1, 1951, administration was transferred to the Department of the Interior. The first Constitution for the territory was signed on April 27, 1960, and revised in 1967.